VATICAN CITY, DEC. 14, 2005 ( Even in the most difficult moments of life, God is always at our side, says Benedict XVI.

The Pope made that observation today in St. Peter's Square at the general audience, during which he offered a commentary on the first 12 verses of Psalm 138(139), a "song of confidence."

Leaving aside his prepared text at one point, the Holy Father summed up the message of this poetical biblical composition: "God is always with us."

"Even in the dark nights of our life, he does not abandon us," the Pontiff said. "Even in the difficult moments, he is present."

"And even in the final night, in the final solitude in which no one will be able to accompany us, in the night of death, the Lord does not abandon us," he added, on the day when the Church celebrates the liturgical memorial of John of the Cross, the saint of the "dark night of the soul."

The Lord "accompanies us, as well, in this last solitude of the night of death," Benedict XVI said. "And for this reason, as Christians, we can be confident: We are never alone. The goodness of God is always with us."

Not threatening

The Pope has had the custom of adding improvised words to the catecheses already prepared in writing.

"God knows everything and he is with his creature, and it is not possible to elude him," the Holy Father continued. "His presence is not threatening nor controlling, even though his gaze certainly is grave when looking on evil, before which he is not indifferent."

"In each one of these spheres of space, including the most secret, God is actively present," he said.

God "is always willing to take us by the hand to guide us on our earthly path," the Pope continued. "Therefore, it is not a closeness of a judge that provokes terror, but rather of support and freedom."

Before taking leave of the 20,000 people gathered in the square, Benedict XVI invited all to prepare themselves for Christmas with the sentiments of St. John of the Cross.

That saint "invites us to direct the gaze of our heart to the mystery hidden in Jesus Christ, reminding us that, whoever really desires divine knowledge, desires above all to enter into the profound depths of the cross," the Pope said.

With this meditation, Benedict XVI continued with the series of commentaries on the psalms and canticles of the Bible, which may be consulted at

St. Peter's Square is showing signs of preparations for Christmas. Near the obelisk stands the Christmas tree, brought this year from Austria.